American finance worker arrested in Colombia, accused of killing popular DJ girlfriend

An American man is accused of strangling and killing his girlfriend in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, last month, Colombian authorities said.

Colombian police arrested John Nelson Poulos, a 35-year-old finance worker from Wisconsin, after they discovered on Jan. 22 the body of Valentina Trespalacios, a popular Colombian DJ, stuffed inside a suitcase in a trash can near Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport.

John Poulos was returned to Colombia by Panamanian authorities.
John Poulos was returned to Colombia by Panamanian authorities.

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Couple stayed in short-term rental

Investigators determined that Trespalacios had been staying with Poulos at a nearby shorty-stay rental apartment since Jan. 19, the same day Poulos entered the country.

Police said Poulos and Trespalacios had been dating for 10 months, and met online.

Poulos fled the country to neighboring Panama after Trespalacios’ body was recovered, officials said. A medical examiner determined she died by strangulation.

Colombian authorities issued an Interpol alert for Poulos. Authorities detained the American at Panama City’s international airport and transferred him to Colombian custody. He had planned to fly from Panama to Istanbul, Turkey, police said.

Colombian prosecutors present video evidence

Prosecutors presented video footage in court Wednesday in attempt to lay out a timeline of Poulos' activities on the morning of Trespalacios' death. The footage showed:

  • Poulos leaving the rental apartment the morning of Jan. 22 with a suitcase that matched the one found at the dump.

  • Poulos straining to load the suitcase from a cart into a gray rental car’s trunk.

  • Further street camera footage hours later captures a man officials believe is Poulos removing something from a gray car and dumping it in the trash can where Trespalacios was found.

  • At 4:32 p.m. local time, cameras capture the same gray car arriving at the airport.

  • Cameras inside the airport show Poulos passing through security to board an overnight flight to Panama.

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Prosecutors said he was bound for Istanbul, Turkey with an ultimate destination of Montenegro in the Balkans.

Poulos charged with femicide

Poulos is charged with femicide, a gender-based murder charge that carries a 20 to 40 year-prison sentence. Colombia is one of several Latin American countries to adopt femicide laws in an attempt to curb the endemic violence against women by men in the region.

Poulos was due to appear in court again Thursday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: American John Polous killed Valentina Trespalacios in Colombia: Police